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« Warren Samuels (1933-2011) | Main | Greg Ip's Voodoo Economic Journalism »


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Only thing I would have added at the end is to point out that corporations are governed by consumer demand and competition, which is why reducing government influence and power over them doesn't necessarily mean that corporations 'take over some of that space.'


Just my taste, but you were too nice. Several of the arguments made by your opponent were mind numbing drivel.

Can you have imagined Milton Friedman responding in a public debate the way you did with nice polite patty cake?

Yes, I can. Depending on the situation.

I've learned that with radio/TV panel discussions you only have a certain amount of time before the host will move on to another topic, a call, or go back to the other people. You have to make instantaneous decisions about what points will be most persuasive to your listeners. If it's a one-on-one thing with the host, then you have more time to do that. Friedman was at his most "destructive" when he was one on one with a host where he could do that more easily.

More important, the goal is not to "beat" my opponent, but to persuade the listeners. This was NPR (go read the comments to see what kind of views the listenership has), about as left-liberal an audience as I'm ever going to have. Trying to destroy Bernstein (who, let's note, treated me equally respectfully) would have done nothing to persuade the listeners. Finding places to challenge their preconceptions, even on the margin, might.

Yeah, my libertarian friends would have enjoyed my doing what you want, but that would be utterly self-indulgent and unproductive in terms of changing people's minds. Even a little.

Yes it is a huge mistake to be obsessed with "winning" the argument. The people who you are really aiming to reach are the ones who are inclined the other way but are not so rusted on that they are beyond thinking a bit more about the issues.

Sometimes I think of the strong Rand followers as speed bumps on the road to serfdom, they will put their bodies on the line to defend freedom but they will not formulate arguments and modes of discourse that might persuade other people to change their minds.


I understand your point. However, I don't think Friedman would have ever been suckered by the premise that corporations are tax payers.

Instead he might have pointed out that a corporation is an abstract legal construct, and taxes can only be levied on people, not words on a page. The fundamental question involved with corporate taxation is strictly who the burden of taxation falls upon. Who is the burden shifted to relative to direct personal taxation?

The burden of corporate taxes are not shifted away from the poor, but instead are incredibly regressive and insidious upon the poor and middle class. They comprise a politically ingenious slight of hand trick used by unscrupulous politicians to make people believe that horses can fly.

The rules governing the perpetuation of a corporate entity dictate that increased taxation will be passed on either in the form of increased prices for the goods and services produced that consumers want, or will be delt with by the corporation through cutting costs, often by trimming wages or numbers of employees.

Again, this burden does not fall equally on the rich and poor, but disproportionately on the poor and middle class. Increases in corporate taxation also more detrimentally effect the commercial viability of small businesses rather than large business due to a number of well known reasons including the lobbying ability of big corporations to secure loopholes. This provides a competitive advantage to the big corporations who can keep their prices lower than the little guy and drive them out of business.

That is a message that will be understood by the NPR audience.

Economists who try to get around this are the same school of economists that argue that the burden due to the accumulation of public debt is not transfered to future generations. They continue to spread the myth that debt internally held means that a dollar paid in interest by the federal government is a dollar earned by the private sector. It is false.

Did I not start by pointing out that the higher tax gets "passed on" as lower wages, according to a number of recent studies?

You did. I heard it. But it was stated so quickly, that I doubt any of the NPR audience who should have been ripe for the force of the arguments you gave, understood the significance of what you said.

I'm not saying it was your fault. Most of it is due to the time constraints of the forum, which does not really allow these points to be properly explained or clarified. I'm not sure how one improves on the situation, but we must note that these types of venues, while possibly helpful, are limited in their educational value.

We live in a sound bite world.


Another problem is that I am from Texas. We speak only about half as fast as you who live in the north, and think only at about a third of the speed. We have big hard drives, but limited amounts of random access memory.

Great interview, Steve.

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